TORONTO—Last night, Crowne Plaza Toronto Airport hosted 150 sponsors and volunteers from Youth Without Shelter, a youth shelter and support program in Etobicoke. The evening, which included inspiring stories from past and present YWS residents, and food prepared by chef Tony Fernandes' award-winning culinary team, was held to celebrate the 1,000 homeless youth the shelter has cared for in 2013.
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Last Christmas, the hotel hosted a dinner for YWS, and general manager Fariyal Hasham was impressed with the kids and pledged a year-long commitment to the program.
Every Friday, Crowne Plaza employees have the option of paying a toonie and dressing in jeans. They sport buttons that say, “Ask me about my jeans.”
Posters in the lobby let guests know about the program, and guests have donated to the program, Hasham told CLN. So far the program has raised $1,300 for the shelter.
Each month, Crowne Plaza Toronto Airport's staff also prepares and serves hot breakfasts for youth at the shelter. Bake sales, barbecues and large drives for food, hygiene supplies and school supplies have also been successful.
“At first the food and school supplies boxes were a little empty,” said Hasham, “but lately we can't keep up with the boxes. Everyone is really enjoying it.”
The hotel has sponsored career days, where youth can go through the different departments of the hotel to learn about careers in the hospitality industry. They also hosted career workshops, featuring coaching from the hotel's HR department on resume writing and interview skills.
Last Thursday, Chef Fernandes taught one youth how to make a fluffy omelet in the hotel kitchen.
Next steps include bringing a Thanksgiving dinner to the shelter. The hotel's annual pumpkin-carving contest will feature a YWS team, along with teams from the the different hotel departments.
“It's been such a humbling experience for our staff,” said Hasham. “Now, every month, they're asking what's next.”